The Pirates have outlined a few ideas with the facility that would mostly address field and clubhouse issues, but that would also improve the fan experience. Along with an expanded visitor’s clubhouse and a more level outfield, the upgrades to Boyce Cox Field would include a modern scoreboard.
Boyce Cox Field is also used by the Virginia High School baseball program, which obviously does not have the same concerns as the Pirates. With that said, the ballpark could probably stand to be modernized in some areas, especially given that improvements to fellow Appalachian League facilities such as Pulaski’s Calfee Park and Johnson City’s TVU Credit Union Ballpark have given the circuit a boost.
For the Pirates, leveling the field is the main issue. While city officials are open to providing funds for the project, a full-scale upgrade of the playing surface may fall out of Bristol’s price range. More from the Bristol Herald Courier:
“The outfield has a swag. There is a culvert under the outfield where Susong Branch runs under the outfield in a half-culvert,” [assistant city manager Andrew] Trivette said. “We looked at it and there isn’t an issue with the culvert, it appears to be just natural settling. What we hope to do is address that, make it more level and a better playing experience. What we will not be able to do is put in an outfield that 100 percent meets professional baseball standards, just because of the expense involved in that.”
The city expects to spend about $25,000 on its work during the next offseason, while a study shows meeting professional field standards could cost an estimated $200,000.
“We can level the field and improve the playing experience. We can put drainage in, we can put irrigation in that’s not there now and really make a distinct improvement over the current situation,” Trivette said.
Mahlon Luttrell, president of Bristol Baseball, said Wednesday he wasn’t part of most recent meeting but had several previous discussions with city officials and would welcome the improvements.
“The first and foremost [issue] is between the lines in the outfield. It’s very unlevel. We’ve had that swag in right center for some time and the warning track you have to run uphill. That whole area needs to be leveled out per Minor League standards. We have to maintain what the standard says or you run the risk of Minor League Baseball not approving the field,” Luttrell said.
One thing that could come up in future talks: a new ballpark. Bristol is a twin city of Bristol, Tennessee, and Boyce Cox Field is on the Virginia side of the sate line. Late last year, Bristol, Tn and Bristol Baseball opted to move forward with a joint feasibility study on a new venue for the Pirates. The Herald Courier reported that the results of the study are unexpected to be unveiled in the near future.